Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy

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A Marriage Saved - A Mission Given

Father Scottston Brentwood - Monday, June 22, 2015

When Julie and Greg met it seemed to be the perfect match. They fell madly in love. Their temperaments and interests seemed to be perfect for one another. They complemented each other even from a spiritual perspective. Julie was raised in a traditional Catholic family which emphasized Mass attendance and proper behavior. Greg, on the other hand, was from a family which had converted to the Church. His family was not as devote as Julie’s family, but they were people of faith.

The early years of marriage were happy for the Alexander’s as they welcomed two babies into the new family. Greg was in the military and Julie stayed at home to take care of the children. The young family attended Mass each Sunday, because this was “the thing to do.”

 

With the happiness of those early years, who would have expected that dark clouds were beginning to form. Trouble really started when Greg left the military and got the dream job in Texas. The position offered a significant pay increase.

 

The Alexander’s were beginning to get a taste of the good life. They bought a beautiful house in an upscale neighborhood. Greg put his heart and soul into work, while Julie made new friends in the neighborhood. Many of these women were successful career women bring in large salaries. While drinking wine they would all brag about their careers and positions of prominence. Julie felt left out. Compared to these other women her life as a homemaker seemed boring and insignificant.

 

Finally, Julie made the decision to go back to work. Her persuasiveness earned her a job at a local fitness club. It wasn’t long till Julie also began climbing up the economic ladder. Her dedication and talents earned her a promotion to a position many miles away from her family. Julie would only be spending a few days at home a week. In her mind, Julie rationalized the decision as the best for her career and the family’s income. However deep inside her, Julie felt empty and “spiritually divorced from her husband.” Work gave Julie the affirmation and meaning that she didn’t experience at home.


Then one day, the house that the Alexander’s had built on sand collapsed.Everything came to a head when Greg finally gathered the courage to say, “I am miserable”. At first Julie was taken back, but after reflection she realized that she too was miserable. She had been finding ways to avoid Greg and the problems that existed between them. The couple had been so busy making money and accumulating things that they rarely talked.

 

After a time of discernment, they decided to get a divorce, but lived in the same house while making preparations. Even with all their marital problems, the Alexander’s still faithfully attended Mass out a feeling of obligation. A new priest had come to the parish who was a gifted preacher. There was something about this man’s words that caught their attention. They actually “enjoyed” this priest’s homilies!

 

One Sunday the couple had the idea that they had to speak to this priest about their pending divorce. For both of them it was the 911 last chance that they would give God before making things final.

 

The meeting with the priest was an actual grace for the couple. They came to discover that this priest was a Canon Lawyer who worked for the diocesan marriage tribunal. Because of his position, he was not able to counsel couples.Instead, the priest gave the Alexander’s some “homework” to do in order to come to know God’s plan for marriage.


This simple step began a long journey towards an appreciation of the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage. They studied the basis for the Sacrament found in Sacred Scripture. The couple began to read the wealth of wisdom found in the Church’s two thousand year teaching on marriage and family. After reading documents such as Familiaris Consortio (St. John Paul II). Humanae Vitae (Blessed Paul VI), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they were blown away by the beauty and richness of God’s plan for marriage.

 

Like St. Paul, Julie and Greg Alexander had wasted years of marriage serving themselves and dishonoring Christ’s Sacrament. Only as they began to study God’s plan for Matrimony, did they realize what a mess they had made of their marriage. Praying together they promised God that if He would somehow save their marriage they would give their lives helping other couples discover the beauty of the Sacrament.

 

The Lord answered this prayer which He had placed on the hearts of the Alexanders. Within a few years, they were both working full-time promoting the Covenant of Love marriage ministry in parishes. This ministry is based on empowering married couples in the parish to minister to others. It is a five year curriculum which assists couples in living God’s plan for marriage.

 

The mystery of the Cross is that God chose to take something evil and bring great good from it. When the Jesus knocked Julie and Greg off their horse (Acts 9:1-10),he did not condemn them for their many sins. Instead, Jesus used them and their broken marriage to bring light and healing to other couples. May married couples never despair of their woundedness, but rather allow the Divine Physician to heal and strengthen their love for each other! For with God there is always hope and all things are possible!

 

The Alexander House

 

Marriage 911

Strengthening Marriage and Family Life in Our Country

Father Scottston Brentwood - Friday, May 29, 2015

On Tuesday, May 5th the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sponsored a workshop entitled Marriage-Centered Communities: How to Build a Marriage Ministry in Your Parish. This addressed the current state of marriage in the world and the Church and offered practical ways that a parish can most effectively serve married couples. The first part of the workshop was led by Dr. Hilary Towers, a Catholic author and developmental psychologist from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

 

Dr. Towers’ presentation posed the question: “What heritage are we leaving to the next generation?” Much of her talk provided statistical data on the state of Marriage in our country. Today the divorce rate is 51% which is an all-time high. Surprisingly, new data shows that more Americans are getting divorced after many years of marriage. The percentage of divorces filed by those 50 to 60 years old is skyrocketing.

 

There are various reasons given for divorce today, but some are more common than others. The most prevalent is that the couple has “grown apart”. A high percentage also claim that they separated because of an inability to “talk together”. Other common reasons given for divorce are “money problems” and “infidelity”.


It is clear from the data that marriage as an institution in the United States is fading. At one time marriage was a part of the fabric of American society. It was expected that most young people would enter into this bond of matrimony in their 20’s and it would continue for a lifetime. Fidelity was taken for granted. Divorce and/or separation would occasionally happen, but it was a rare occurrence in society as a whole.

 

To be sure, there have and always will be legitimate reasons for separation, but in general the goods of a stable bond far out way the contrary. Studies continually show that a stable home with a mother and father provides that best environment for raising children. Married couples can model so many virtues for their children. The couples teach by their example the good habits of charity, forgiveness, accountability, and commitment. Even in less than ideal situations, children are often given models of how to cope with weakness and sin in an imperfect world.


America and other developed nations are entering into a new reality of a society without marriage. In Judeo-Christian thought, the family has always been understood as the basic unit of civilization.As St John Paul II states, “Human fatherhood and motherhood ... contain in an essential and unique way a' likeness' to God which is the basis of the family as a community of human life, as a community of persons united in love (Letter to Families, 6)". Husband, wife, and children show forth the Trinity in a totally unique way. This family is the ideal place for raising children to be responsible citizens

 

What if our next generation does not have the stability of the traditional family? We are beginning to see that millennials have a much less confidence in the possibility of commitments. Today about 20% of adults 18-29 years old have decided to cohabitate and/or not even consider marriage. There is in general a lack of trust in others and in the institution of marriage. On a purely economic level, the increase of divorce places more children in danger of poverty. It also puts a greater strain on government and state agencies to provide for many single parent homes.

 

Although things do not look so good for marriage today, there is much that can be done to help couples. As Dr. Towers says, “It is the Church working through the clergy and laity that will rehabilitate marriage.” Much can be done at the local level. The parish can and must build supportive communities of strong marriages. These married couples will become mentors of commitment for those who have none. The parish family also must pray for marriages at Mass and through various prayer groups. The laity need to encourage their pastors to preach about the Church’s treasury of wisdom on the Sacrament of Marriage. Parishes need to make accessible the practical components of a strong healthy marriage.

 

Things are not looking great today for the institution of marriage. The statistics show that fidelity and commitments to marriage are at all time lows. Yet, this basic unit of civilization is of inestimable value to society as a whole. For the sake of future generations, the each member of the Church must do their part support this Sacrament. Our gift to the next generation must be this: a renewed commitment to the Sacrament of Marriage.

 

More from Dr Hilary Towers:

 

It is time for the Church to face up to the crisis of spousal abandonment

 

A Guide to Saving Marriages

 

Time to Challenge No-Fault Divorce

Sharing of Faith and Culture

Father Scottston Brentwood - Monday, May 18, 2015

On May 10th, Fr Ken and I began a journey from LeRoy, NY to Georgia with a van packed with religious goods. These items (statues, stations of the cross etc.) were from the former Mercygrove property which was recently sold. The proceeds from the sale are allocated in large part for the development of a new redemptive mission to families in the United States.


The first stop on our journey was to drop off several items at Life Teen camp in northern Georgia. It felt good to be able to give these religious articles new life at a camp which each summer is packed with teens and young adults.

 

After a two hour stop, we were back on the road bringing a special gift to our 3rd Order in Atlanta. Through these dedicated lay people, Order of Mercy has been present in Atlanta for 17 years. It all began in 1998 when a little woman left Rome and arrived in Atlanta, GA. Maria Virginia's story is key to this movement which Christ would bless.

 

The spirit of merced or ransom was placed in Maria at an early age as she was educated by the Mercedarian Friars in Puerto Rico. This spirituality would continue to grow in her throughout her life. When her husband passed away in his 60’s, Maria felt the Lord was calling her to enter the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. After a few years of formation, it became clear to her that Christ the Redeemer desired her to go out to those in need” with the message of mercy.

 

Many extraordinary circumstances led, Maria Virginia to her mission field in Atlanta, GA. Seventeen years ago she set up her home in Georgia and quickly got to work. Maria got permission of the Order of BVM of Mercy to establish a 3rd Order in a place where no friars or sisters had been. With her deep faith, love for Our Lady of Mercy, and boundless energy this women was able to inspire many to follow the redemptive spirit of the Order.

 

Soon enough, it became clear that God was calling the new 3rd Order to assist the many immigrants who were coming from Mexico and settling in the Atlanta metropolitan area. These immigrants left behind all they knew seeking a better life. Yet their faith, which is the most precious treasure, was in danger in a new land. Who will teach them about Christ? Who will baptize their children? They hide in the shadows with no one to shepherd them.

 

Fr Ken and I got to experience first hand the redemptive work of our 3rd Order in Atlanta. The week of May 11th was spent blessing houses and practicing our Spanish as we enjoyed authentic Mexican food with the the people. The highlight of the week was a outdoor Mass with many immigrant families. As we struggled to speak their language, they just appreciated the opportunity to come close to Jesus and teach their children how to worship.


On this long journey into the Deep South an exchange took place. We brought statues and religious items which are plentiful in the Northeast. These are aspects of our culture which have preserved the faith of generations. We experienced tangibly the faith and devotion of the Mexican people. Hopefully our ministry among them has strengthen and enriched the faith of all.

 

May Our Lady of Mercy place her mantle around the mission of the Atlanta Chapter of the 3rd Order! She who is the refuge of the captive and persecuted Christians, will surely watch over this mission to those in the are marginalized today.

 

Life Teen website

St John the Evangelist Church Hapeville, GA

Third Order of Mercy

 


A Prayer for the Protection of Family Life

Father Scottston Brentwood - Thursday, April 30, 2015

The following talk took place at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA. This parish is staffed by the Order of BVM of Mercy or the Mercedarian Friars. Each Wednesday during the Lenten Season the parish sponsors “Soup and Salvation”. Parishioners prepare a particular soup and a reflection is given on a particular topic. In preparation for the World Meeting of Families, this year’s theme is marriage and family. Fr Matthew Phelan, O. de M. gives the following talk based on the St Raymond Nonnatus Prayer for Family Life:

Audio of talk Part 2


Mercedarians in the United States are in process of developing new family apostolate. It is just in its beginning stages. This apostolate is in many ways based on the St Raymond Nonnatus Prayer for the protection of marriage and family.

 

In this talk we will use the Prayer to St. Raymond Nonnatus as a source of reflection. The prayer to St Raymond Nonnatus for Christian Families goes back at least 60 years. It first received the imprimatur in 1955. Who could have known how much more relevant this prayer would be today? We will attempt to reflection on it at line by line:


1st line: Lord, Father Almighty! The family is the most ancient institution of humanity, for it is as old as man himself.

 

The beginning of the prayer brings us back to creation. The word man is used, but it is meant to represent the fullness of man in creation of man & women. Man is told to “Increase and multiply and subdue the earth”. The creation of the family is found in the beginning. Man and woman are united in marriage together and with their children they form the family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authorities. Marriage and family (rightly composed), therefore, should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of relationships should be evaluated.

 

The point of all this is that Marriage and family is a natural right or God given right. It is absolutely unchangeable and is the foundation of all positive rights. Natural law is the basis of positive rights (those granted by the state). Natural rights are inherent to our human nature. All civil law, therefore, is only valid when based on the Natural Law. In the tradition of our nation, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Looking at this more deeply from a Catholic perspective: St Pope John XXIII wrote the encyclical Pacem in Terris (April 11, 1963). Paragraph 11 of this document tells us:

“But first We must speak of man's rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services.”


We hear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated (CCC 2202).” So the necessary social services are actually rooted in the family.

 

The social teaching of the Church is also based in the family. In regard to these social services, St Pope John XXIII states,

In consequence, he has the right tobe looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work;widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of hisown he is deprived of the means of livelihood.Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris. . . ), #11”

First, this is the responsibility of each family. Secondarily, it is the responsibility of the community or State. However, problems arise when the State seeks to take the place of the family. To supplant the family or take over what is first the rightfully role of family. It is legitimate for the State to facilitate the role of the family, but never to supplant.

 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops state,

“The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society (7 themes of Catholic Social teaching USCCB).”

 

The term “fundamental rights” here is the same as natural rights. And the natural rights belong to us by the fact that we exist as human persons. But once one rejects any concept of natural law or objective truth (relativism) then it becomes a very Darwinist or “survival of the fittest” and tyrannical approach to rights. Without the natural law the only “rights” that one would have are those determined by the State (whoever is in charge). These rights are established by the majority opinion as Pope Benedict XVI spoke of in his Theory of Relativism. Or they are determined by the mandate of those in charge as in the tyranny of totalitarianism (dictatorship).


As the Prayer to St Raymond Nonnatus states and the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: the institution of the family predates the institution of the State. Therefore, the family is to be the model or reference point for the state and not vise versa. When there is a dysfunction in the family then it very well may “take a village”, but only when that “village” is modeled on a functional family. If that “village” has another model than in reality it ends up destroying the natural rights.


Line 2 But because it is Thine own institution and the only means by which man can come into this world and develop to the greatest perfection, therefore the forces of evil are assaulting it, causing men to despise this basic unit of Christian civilization .

 

The basic idea of this sentence is that “the forces of evil are assaulting” the family. Then it identifies two reasons for this assault. The first reason that evil assaults the family is because it is God’s own institution. Thus this attack resembles the original assault on human communion as represented in the account of the fall in Genesis. God creates human beings as male and female. He creates them to be in communion. Satan attacks that communion and seeks to break it down.

 

The second reason for this assault is because it is the means by which new life is brought into the world and can develop to the greatest perfection. This developing “to the greatest perfection” is a part of creation and redemption. We are made in the Image and Likeness of God and so we seek through Grace to become like the Creator. This does not occur through our own power, but through the Lord’s pure gift.

 

Returning to the earlier quote from Paragraph 11 of Pacem in Terris “Man has the right to live…”. New life is brought into the world through the family. No matter how dysfunctional the family might be. We still need a father and a mother. We still need a sperm and an egg. No matter what science is able to manipulate it will never be able to create life without those basic building blocks of life which man did not create himself. Also in Pacem in Terris #11 St John XXIII states, man has the right “to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life” This is expressed in the St Raymond prayer as “developed to the greatest perfection.”

 

This attack has become more obvious in recent times. Listen to these Chilling words from Supreme Court Justice RuthBader Ginsburg in a New York Times interview in 2009 “Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae -- in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion." Again…populations that we don’t want to many of…this is frightening!

 

This despising of this basic unit of Christian civilization has even infiltrated Catholic institutions. Professor John McAdams of Marquette University described on his blog a classroom situation where a junior faculty member shut down a student who wanted to discuss his opposition to same-sex marriage, because she considered it an unacceptable topic in her ethics class. She stated that this would be on par with a discussion which favored racism or sexism. Such a discussion would offend any gay students in the class. This women felt that speaking in opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption were homophobic. So to give support in a Catholic university for the most ancient institution created by God is on par with racism, sexism, or homophobia. Professor McAdams supported the student’s right to expressing the Church’s teaching in the classroom which is a free speech zone. The University responded by suspending McAdams and attempting to revoke his tenure. These is just a few accounts, but there are many other examples of how many segments of society are despising the Natural law and Divine Revelations concept of marriage.


Line 3: In suicidal fury they seek to deal it a mortal blow. Let them not succeed, Lord, in their destructive designs on the Christian family.

 

The end goal is not just to have many different types of families, but to eliminate it altogether. Just like we have a variety of lentil soup here present (many parishioners brought lentil soup). If we were to keep changing the recipe. Say eventually we leave out the lentils entirely. In time, it would cease to be the same soup. We would not be able to rightly call it Lentil Soup. Just so if we keep changing what constitutes family, marriage, and/or sexuality we will eventually no longer have anything which resembles these things.

 

I was looking to find out how many genders are recognized today. I had heard that some groups recognized as many as 14 or 15 different genders. I came across the Gender Equality Resource a Cal Community Center (http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms.) Almost 85 different definitions relating to the different genders and their lifestyles. It has gotten so complex that we need a “definition of terms”.


The prayer says “in suicidal fury”. This is a strong word. The family as it exists by Natural Law as we have discussed is the building block of civilization. So to destroy the family actually ends up being the suicide of the civilization. I brought a book with me: Civilizing Sex: On Chastity and the Common Good by Patrick Riley. Riley offers wonderful historical and philosophical presentation that marriage and marital fidelity are necessary preservatives for every society. And they are indispensable means of rescuing our own society.

 

In addition, Riley demonstrates that marriage actually built society.In creating a family and giving stability, marriage provides civil society with its primary cell. Riley demonstrations this through history. The great civilizations such as the Israelites, Canaanites, Greeks, Roman Empire, and Middle Ages all eventually fell. Their fall was proceeded by a breakdown in chastity. And it was only in a return to martial chastity, first through the Israelites and later with Christianity, that the civilization began to flourish or grow once again. Greater self-indulgence leads to the rejection of children leading to a society that does not reproduce itself.

 

It is not an exaggeration to say that the fight for marriage and the defense of the family is really a fight for the life of our very civilization. Our current society in attacking the family and redefining the family/sexuality…our society is committing suicide. While western civilization destroys itself, Islamic Jihadists (ISIS) are “licking the chops” because we are making their job much easier.


Mercedarian Redemptive mission in the United States:

 

The Mercedarian Order was founded to ransom Christians who were in danger of losing their faith These Christians were taken captive by Muslims in the 13th Century and being pressured or even forced to convert to Islam. This was the original form of “captivity” that the Order was founded to free Christians from.

 

Throughout its history, the Order always looks for new forms of captivity as the object of its redemptive mission. In looking for new forms of captivity, the Order in her modern Constitutions had developed four criteria for the new forms of captivity which endangers people’s faith. These forms of captivity constitute the proper field to exercise our 4th Vow (being willing to offer our lives for those endanger of losing their faith). They “occur where there is a social situation which contains the following conditions: i. It is oppressive and degrading to the human being, ii. It springs from principles and systems opposed to the Gospel, iii. It puts the faith of Christians in danger, iv. It offers the possibility of helping, visiting, and redeeming people who are in such situations (CO 16).”

 

With this prayer to St Raymond Nonnatus which the Mercedarians have been praying for over 60 years and looking at our cultural situation today, the friars over the last decade have recognized this “attack on the family” as fitting all four of these criteria for what constitutes the proper object of the redemptive mission. The attack on the family is oppressive and degrading to the human person. In fact, it is a denial of who we even are as human persons. And it is born from principles and systems opposed to the Gospel. It has put the faith of Christians in danger through persecution: labeling of Christian belief as “hate speech”. We certainly have that possibility of helping, visiting, and redeeming families since we deal with them every day in our apostolates. The Mercedarians in the United States are working on making this redeeming and freeing families as the centerpiece of our apostolate or work in this country.

 

We haven’t been able to complete the whole prayer, but just from the first few lines we see how profound and prophetic it is. Maybe in the future we can conclude this detailed analyses of this prophetic prayer for marriage and family life.

 

The Life of St Raymond Nonnatus Video

Wiki St Raymond Nonnatus

A Prophetic Prayer for Marriage and Family

Father Scottston Brentwood - Monday, April 27, 2015

 

On March 4th, 2015 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA. Fr Matthew Phelan, O. de M. gave a reflection on Marriage and Family based on the St Raymond Nonnatus Prayer (composed circa 1941). Our Lady of Lourdes parish is staffed by the Order of BVM of Mercy or the Mercedarian Friars. Each Wednesday during the Lenten Season the parish sponsors "Soup and Salvation". Parishioners prepare a particular soup and a reflection is given on a specific topic. In preparation for the World Meeting of Families, this year’s theme is marriage and family. Fr Matthew entire reflection can be seen on the Order's youtube account: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0GBtVQLQkc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT9cdVlPgr4



 St Raymond Nonnatus

Patron of expectant mothers, pre-born babies, Christian families, and those falsely accused

 

Prayer for Christian Families
Lord, Father Almighty! The family is the most ancient institution of humanity, for it is as old as man himself. But because it is Thine own institution and the only means by which man can come into this world and develop to the greatest perfection, therefore the forces of evil are assaulting it, causing men to despise this basic unit of Christian civilization. In suicidal fury they seek to deal it a mortal blow. Let them not succeed, Lord, in their destructive designs on the Christian family.
Through the intercession of the glorious St. Raymond Nonnatus, pleader in heaven for the happiness, welfare, and peace of Christian families, we beg Thee to hear our prayers. By the merit of this great saint, our patron, grant that our homes may ever be modeled after the Holy Family of Nazareth. Let not the enemies of Christian family life triumph in their sacrilegious attacks, but rather convert them to the truth for the glory of Thy holy name. Amen. 

http://orderofmercy.businesscatalyst.com/thelatestfromtheorder/patron-of-expectant-mothers-and-families-st-raymond-nonnatus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgBzOcFePyE

Reflection in Preparation for the World Meeting of Families

Father Scottston Brentwood - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The following is a summary of a talk given by Dr. Jonathan Reyes to the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on October 4, 2014. It is hoped that the essence of Dr Reyes’ inspiring words are captured accurately.

Archbishop Chaput introduces Dr Jonathan Reyes as the primary speaker for this workshop intended to kick off the clergy’s preparations for the World Meeting of Families held in Philadelphia September 21st -25th 2015.  Dr Reyes is one of the founding members of FOCUS or Fellowship of Catholic University Students. When the Archbishop was the Ordinary of Denver, CO, he first got to know Dr Reyes. At this time he was the president of Augustine Institute. Recognizing Dr Reyes’s skills and leadership, the Archbishop appointed him as the Director Catholic Charities in Archdiocese of Denver. Currently, our speaker holds the very important position as the director of the Office of Peace and Development for USCCB.

Dr Reyes introduces himself candidly admitting that he was a bit apprehensive about speaking to a room full of priests. However, he will take the same position as C. S. Lewis who on May 11th 1959 spoke before Anglican clergy and proclaimed, “I am a sheep, telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. And now I begin my bleating.”

Dr Reyes’ talk will have 3 parts: 1st the history of family life & challenges, 2nd the ordering of family life in way that helps us deal with these challenges, & 3rd  speaking as sheep to shepherd (as a dad telling us the clergy what fathers need to hear or know).

 

On July 27, 2013, Pope Francis gave an address to the Bishops of Brazil in which he stated, “Ours is not an age of change, but a change of age. “ Dr Reyes emphasis that we are in an age fundamentally different from centuries past. Other authors have expounded on this supposition. In the last two centuries, the human race has experienced a change greater than any in its history.

 

Christendom to Post-Christendom

 

To understand this we must go back into the history of Christendom. Christendom can be described as a period of time when society and what guided social life came from the Church. For example in Medieval France there was a law which stated that if anyone who was seriously ill went for 10 days without anointing of sick then could not receive a Christian burial. The assumption was that no person would be so clueless or foolish in such a Christian society as to go for 10 days without the Sacrament?

 

In Europe, we begin to enter post-Christendom with the French Revolution. It was more than just a power struggle or desire for democracy. There was truly an anthropological revolution going on. The ideas and concepts were brought in by the Revolution, which fundamentally changed society. The most important of these was that God no longer had much to do with human affairs. Basically, the premise was that God created the world, but then “stepped back” to allow science and reason to govern creation. Another aspect of this was the belief that man didn’t have Original Sin or the tendency toward sin.  With education and time, human beings could overcome their weaknesses and “get things right”.

 

In the United States of America things were a little different. We could have described the nation as a Protestant country. Most of the cultural norms and modes of thinking were grounded in a deeply Protestant worldview. In the States, the bible was universally accepted as Divine Revelation or at least an authoritative document. Even in the Civil War, commonly regarded as the nation’s bloodiest and most divisive battle, both sides justified their position from biblical quotes. Yes, the nation remained primarily Christian long after Europe’s substantial break with Christendom.

 

Things would remain the same in the United States until the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s. Nearly, 160 years after the French revolution, Christendom began to break apart in the nation and the Post-Christendom period began. Christian ideals were replaced with the same secular humanist concepts of the French Revolution. Divine Providence was not seen as governing all of creation. Sin could be eradicated.

At this time, Dr Reyes took a closer look at the history of Catholicism in the United States. From the beginning of the nation, Catholics were a minority group which was marginalized. This would continue until World War II. After the War, Catholics stepped into the mainstream for the first time. Many Catholic men returned from the War to take advantage of the GI Bill. They became the first members of their family to receive a college education. Ironically, Catholic were stepping into culture right at moment of a profound cultural revolution. Despite this we can say that for 30 to 40 years Catholicism and the Nation got along very well.

 

What was seen as revolutionary thought in the 1960’s was really practical relativism. Everyone on their own is free to make up their own norms. Culture grows around assumptions, which become norms. This has happened in the Post-Christendom era as the society has embrace practical relativism as the norm. This effects the family profoundly. Today faithful Christian families do not have confidence that their children will go to school and get the Judeo-Christian worldview. This problem goes very deep, because we cannot trust culture to support the family as before the “revolution”. Christendom had its disadvantages, but the advantage was that parents could trust that they were supported by the culture.

 

Building a Culture in the Family

 

Dr Reyes explains that parents must be proactive rather than reactive. The parents today must be intentionally building a culture in their own families that is different than the one around them. Dr Reyes uses the Religious Life as an example. Each community has a “rule of life” which they follow. The presumption is in each institute that if you follow this life you will grow closer to God. “You build the life and it builds you.” Parenting must be thinking about what kind of cultural life can I build within the family?

What would such a life look like? Dr Reyes offers several life principles to go by. He does so by presenting five challenges and five things (goods) we can order family life to.

 

1) The first challenge is that the modern culture is ordered to fragment or to break up relationships. Individualism is a foundational value in the United States. However, in reality it is bad for relationships. Individualism permeates the culture in such profound ways. It can be found in our language and daily experience. One of these ways is through consumerism. The person is told that they are a consumer who has certain resources. This orders us to think more in terms of the individual than the community. Social Media only adds to this individualism by encouraging superficial relationships. The response to this is that we need to build family lives ordered to solidarity. Parents must find ways of being and speech in the family culture which are ordered to solidarity or communion.

 

2) The second challenge is that the current culture undermines all authority. Just look at the movie “Back to the Future”. In this famous movie, all the adults are idiots and children save the universe. What is constantly being spread is the primacy of the child and foolishness of the adults. This is an attack on authority at its heart. The God given authority of a father and mother are under attack today. Men and women need to recognize that they are the parents given authority by God. A culture must be created in the family which promotes a healthy honoring of authority.

 

3) The third challenge is the comfort culture. Our cars are made with heated seats and all kinds of things to make the driver comfortable. This is true of so many things in the United States. In general everything is ordered to our comfort. We as citizens begin to expect to be comfortable all the time. No suffering and no disappointments should happen to us. We become selfish and soft. Instead, the family must be ordered to the love of Christ through mortification and discipline. Parents must find some way to create a culture in the home which recognizes the value of sacrificing for God and others.

 

4) The fourth challenge is a massive confusion of where the human person comes from and who we are. There is no understanding of the dignity of the human person and the universal call to holiness. Dr. Reyes suggests that we go back to the Aristotelian/Scholastic notions of the person. Actions produce habits. Habits produce character. Character leads to true happiness. Vices can be overcome and virtue can become easier to achieve.

 

5) The fifth challenge is that in our current culture the unseen is not real. We are taught by the culture that the only thing that matters is what we feel, smell, and/or touch. Anything that is unseen is not real. To combat this a family must order there life around what is unseen (spiritual realities). This can be done by the way we talk in the home. An example of this would be simply telling a child that they are not alone because Jesus is present as well as the angels and Saints.

 

Finally, Dr Reyes adds a thought about the media. Technology has access to shape public opinion. Parents must understand that their children are being influenced by hundreds of people through technology and social media. This is a big change. Fifty years ago if someone wanted access to a children they first must go through the parents. Now many people have direct access to our children. With this in mind, we must order the use of media in the family. Dr Reyes’ personal opinion is to get media out of your life to the extent that you can.

There are 3 things that a family must do: 1) Pray as family, 2) Tithe (give away 10 percent to God) & 3) Honor the Lord’s Day.

 

How to inspire fathers to leadership

 

The third part of Dr. Reyes’ talk focused on what priests can do to be supportive and helpful to families. Number one is to make it known that fathers have an obligation of spiritual leadership. The priest could say, “I, as a father of a family (the parish), have a certain obligation to care for my family in a spiritual way.” “You too have this vocation to spiritual fatherhood.”

 

Men must be called forth by the priest. The pastor goes to the man and invites him to real responsibilities. He speaks to the father of their call to spiritual leadership within the family.

It is important to remember to encourage community for men. Fathers do well when they have others men to support them in their vocation. When we want men to do something apostolic we must find lay leaders to bring the men together. Men need friends to call them to action and accountability. They need to know that they have an obligation to build-up family life together. In the parish Men’s movements are good, but they have a short shelf life. The key is the parish community which will endure.

 

In our current culture, it is important to avoid the temptation to a mindset of “scarcity and discouragement”. We can look at the current struggles as Catholic’s in society from a very negative perspective. Church used to have… Things were so much better when…. This train of thought leads only to a temptation to discouragement. We are left just grasping at the past trying to hold onto it as long as we can. Over it 2000 year history, the Church has faced these sort of struggles before. Her response has always been apostolic. To go forth and confront the culture with the Good News of the Gospel!

 

Dr Reyes gave some references:

Statistics on the effect of broken families-- Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia

Catholic programs for men: “That man is you!” program &“The Kings Men”


Dr Reyes and USCCB

World Meeting of Family Philly


 

 

 

Family Fun Day

Father Scottston Brentwood - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As a society, we are learning more than ever the importance of family life. In Genesis, we hear that God created man and women to be a communion of persons. They were told to "be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28)".  However, as divorce rates have increased each generation, individual family members are left with less support from spouses and/or relatives. This is not as God intends. Isolation leads to a deep spiritual and psychological loneliness which has a profound effect on the each member of the family.

 

Thanks be to God that we are beginning to realize the need to support and strengthen the traditional family unit. The Mercedarians are committed to giving our lives to help those in danger of losing their faith, because of the fracturing of family life. There are many ways of supporting family life and strengthening their faith in God. One recent event, which has taken place was the Family Fun Day in at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, LeRoy, NY. Here is our 3rd Order president's explanation of the event:

 

Our Family Fun Day sponsored by the Mercedarian Third Order was a great success. There was a large turn out of families after our 10:30 Mass.We advertised that the recreation hall would open for the Fun Day, right after the Mass and close at about 2 pm, so, many families with kids went to that Mass and attended afterward. From the beginning, the gym was full of parents, children, and grandparents. 

 

We had coffee and doughnuts for the adults and for the kids cotton candy, popcorn, cheese crackers, games, caricature drawings and prizes.The big attraction was the Blue Castle Bounce, which was in constant use. At the end Fr Ken had a sing-a-long. They all had a good time.

Peace be to you,

Gary Privitera

President, Mercedarian Third Order

 

World Meeting of Families 2015

 

Our Lady of Mercy Parish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patron of Expectant Mothers and Families: St. Raymond Nonnatus

Father Scottston Brentwood - Thursday, May 15, 2014

Much heated debate today is on the family. This only makes sense because healthy families are the foundation of any just society. During a press conference held in Philadelphia, USA Vatican officials announced the theme for the 2015 World Day of Families, which will center on humanity's universal vocation to love. It will be 'Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.'" The Mercedarian embrace this theme since so many families are in danger of losing the faith. We offer this reflection on the Patron Saint of Christian Families:

Nearly all women hope for the safe delivery of the child in the womb. And some couples have difficulty conceiving a child, and earnestly pray that God may grant them this wonderful gift.

It’s helpful to know that the patron saint of safe and healthy deliveries is a man who himself was born in a most unusual way.

St. Raymond Nonnatus came into this world about the year 1200 in the rugged Spanish region of Segarra. For many years, Raymond’s parents waited for a child to come. Raymond’s mother made a pilgrimage to the St. Nicholas' hermitage in the area with that intention.

She finally became pregnant. But near the end of her pregnancy, she became gravely ill and died. The life of Raymond, still in the womb, was saved by the Viscount of Cardona, who used his dagger to cut open the womb and lift Raymond out. This event earned Raymond the name “Nonnatus,” Latin for “not born.”

Like many saints, the call to holiness manifested itself to St. Raymond during his childhood. His education came from the priests, and often Raymond would visit St. Nicholas' hermitage, drawn to the peace of the monastic cells.

While the Holy Spirit pulled Raymond toward religious life, his father distracted him from this calling. The devil also coordinated attacks to tempt and distract him, but by the protection of the Virgin Mary, the young man persevered.

As a youth, Raymond met the friars of the Mercedarian Order, who inhabited the St. Nicholas Chapel and surrounding buildings. The Order of Mercy, founded by St. Peter Nolasco in 1218, went about collecting alms to be used for the redemption of Christian captives.

To these friars, Raymond revealed his secret — and that was, inspired by the Virgin Mary, he had made a vow of perpetual virginity, and wished to join her Order — the Order of Mercy. Raymond’s father was reluctant about his 21-year-old son’s joining the order. Yet, Raymond’s godfather, the Viscount, convinced him to change his mind. Thus, Raymond donned the white robe of the Mercedarians.

Mature beyond his years in virtue, Raymond soon made his profession and was recommended by the prior to continue his studies and apply for priestly ordination.

The pious Raymond Nonnatus was chosen by the Master General of the Order of Mercy for the sacrificial role of redeeming Christians who had been captured by the Moors. Imprisoned under terrible conditions, the Christians would often be offered freedom if they denounced Christ and followed the religion of Islam.

The special charism of the Mercedarian Order was to ransom these Christians who were in serious danger of losing their faith. Raymond's first rescue mission took place in 1224, in Valencia, Spain. Two hundred and thirty-three Christian captives were ransomed from the Moors. Next was the Moorish city of Algiers, where the Mercedarians ransomed 140 more captives. Over the next several years, Raymond and his companions made two more redemptions, rescuing another 378 Christians.

The final redemptive mission took place in Algiers in 1236. With all the ransom money spent, St. Raymond offered to stay behind as a hostage with the remaining Christian captives. Along with ministering to the prisoners, he preached to the Muslim guards, condemning the teachings of the prophet Mohammed.

So enraged were they that the Moors put an iron padlock through his lips, and he endured this for eight months before returning to Spain.

Not long after, Pope Gregory IX appointed Raymond a Cardinal.

Nearing the age of forty, St. Raymond became gravely ill at the Cardona Castle. Realizing he was dying without a priest, Raymond prayed desperately for Viaticum – the final reception of the Eucharist. It is written that Christ himself appeared in a vision, and after receiving the Eucharist, Raymond's soul was taken home.

His Order sought to bury him in a nearby cemetery of the Order, while the residents of both the castle and local parish wanted the honor of keeping the saint's remains at the St. Nicholas hermitage. To settle their claims, the disputing parties agreed to place the Saint's body on a blind mule, which would lead the body to the place of its burial. The animal plodded along for a long while, straight to the Saint Nicholas hermitage!

Why is this 13th century saint relevant today? St. Raymond is not only recognized as the patron saint of pregnant women, but of infertile couples, families seeking holiness, and travelers. With today's difficulties and threats against the family, his intercession is particularly powerful – and needed!

If you would like to pray to St. Raymond, get the St. Raymond Nonnatus Kit, which includes blessed St. Raymond water, a blessed candle, a brochure, and other items. It is available from the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.

 www.MercySacramentals.org

World Meeting on Families Philadelphia

More on St Raymond

 


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